A familiar scene in movies and books goes like this: an old woman unwraps stacks of letters tied with string, triggering a flashback. Variations have intruders upon an expired person's estate coming upon these brief snippets of someone's life and piecing them together.
Tonight I did a Google desktop search for a paper I wrote in college, wanting to recall its title ("The suburbs as a site for deviance and criminality" for my television class Junior year, Laura that is for you). That was the fourth hit. Before that, I discovered thirteen months of IMs logged between an old 'lovah' (do I want to call him that? only in this context.) and myself.
To read through months of contact in minutes was odd. I could barely recognize myself in the words I wrote - could not remember the reasons I apologized for being away from the computer for so long; did not recall the ennui I described experiencing over my winter break. At times I seem posturing, other times I revel in my biting wit or astonished with my ability to be mean and nonchalant.
What put me in that ambivalently sentimental mood even more was not reading between the lines in the conversations, but trying to fill in the gaps between the conversations. Unanchored by text, I have only wispy recollections of what occurred between these conversations, and a sense that what happened was both worth remembering and much too painful (in that shallow, angsty way) to bother. At times our attitudes toward each other change in tandem, as we both respond to some particular event, but other times our conversation remains the same, even as I remember a marked change in our standing with each other. College was an intense blur - parties then studying then parties, so much fun yet so stressful at the same time.
I find it interesting that after centuries (millenniums!) of letters being the primary personal record left behind, AIMs are coming into the equation - I personally started logging my AIMs so I could remember what it would be like at X age, in case I ever wanted to write something about this time period. There's definitely some incriminating content on those logs. I'm sure should I ever get famous or some nonsense like that, what I wrote would quite possibly be the downfall of my career (full disclosure: I have never hired a prostitute a la Spitzer), but I think that would be the result of whatever I've written getting miscontrued and blown out of proportion, not because I would have done something truly reprehensible. So I can sleep at night. In fact, that's what I'll do right now, sore throat and post-nasal drip notwithstanding...